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Thursday, June 6,2013

A walk in the Woods

Wild Woods Brewery simulates the great outdoors

By Steve Weishampel
Photo by Elizabeth Miller

We aren’t quite done yet, but it’s hard not to think of Wild Woods Brewery as dessert.

Yes, the Boulder County Beer Tour is nearing its end, with only Nederland’s two breweries and one or two new taprooms left to visit. The staff here is toying with ideas like revisiting each brewery to see what they’ve tapped for summer, or making trips beyond county lines to tip off Boulderites about lesser-known spots like Arvada Beer  Company; Copper Kettle, Strange Brewing and Renegade in Denver; Broomfield’s Big Choice; and a lot more. Ever heard of Beer By Design in Northglenn? See what we mean?

But for now, before we make our long-awaited journey to Ned to wrap up Boulder County, we want to have our cake and drink it, too.

Not that Wild Woods has cake beer. But it wouldn’t be out of place. Wild Woods does have two of the best dessert beers around: the Ponderosa Porter and the Smores Stout.

The husband-and-wife team of Jake and Erin Evans has constructed what might be Boulder’s first “concept brewery” — Joel’s term — by dedicating their beers to recreating the sensations of spending time in the woods.

“They’re like The Who with Tommy,” Joel says. Sure, except, a lot less weird.

The porter has already earned its praise in our 2013 Best of Boulder publication, where it was among our staff picks for best new beer. It’s a vanilla porter that every fan of dark beer should try. It’s a sweet, pitch-perfect blend of vanilla and roasty undertones. Since Wild Woods doesn’t serve food, you’d better bring your own ice cream for Ponderosa floats.

If you’re a chocolate-over-vanilla kind of person, your ears already perked up at the Smores Stout. Graham cracker base, marshmallow and chocolate: It’s all there. It’s a dense combination of flavors, so we have to suggest a sample or splitting with a friend — this one is a lot to handle for 16 ounces.

Given the brewery’s mission to simulate some element of a weekend in the woods with every beer it serves, it should be no surprise that the spot-on flavors don’t stop there. There’s the floral Wildflower Pale Ale, which is like falling facefirst into a high country meadow; the Campfire Red, a hoppy red ale with a solid helping of smokiness; and the strawberry-tinged Berry Patch Wheat.

Wild Woods also dedicates two taps to its limited-release and seasonal beers. Sadly, the Boulder Weekly staff just missed the release of Wild Woods’ Grapefruit Pale Ale, which Jake Evans says will be the brewery’s summer beer. Instead, we grabbed the Honey Nut Blonde, which Evans says should last through early summer. It’s a toasty, honey-flavored, easy-drinking ale that vaguely reminded me — and only me, it seemed — of a breakfast cereal, with its toasted almonds and honey.

Just a year old, Wild Woods is steadily growing, making appearances on guest taps and in liquor stores around the county. And at 4:30 p.m. on a Thursday, it fills up quickly. As we reach the end of the tour, we’re thinking a little about the supposed bubble of new craft breweries, as readers sometimes ask us if the bubble’s going to burst. It doesn’t look that way to us. It looks more like Wild Woods, and breweries like it, are going to step their creativity up and keep bringing beer lovers in.

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